Althorp House and Estate - History and Facts | History Hit

Althorp House and Estate

Althorp, England, United Kingdom

Althorp is a country house and estate which has been home to the Spencer dynasty - family of Princess Diana - for over 500 years.

Lily Johnson

08 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Althorp House and Estate

Althorp House and Estate in Northamptonshire has for over 500 years been the home of the Spencer family, one of Britain’s well-known aristocratic dynasties and family of Princess Diana. Today the stunning house and the history of its past occupants may be explored, alongside its vast and beautiful grounds.

Althorp House and Estate history

Althorp House first became the seat of the Spencer family in 1508, when Sir John Spencer purchased the land with money from his successful sheep-rearing business, building the eminent house in the process. Over the years Althorp has passed through 19 generations of Spencer, welcoming kings from Charles I to Edward VII through their halls.

In the 18th century, Althorp became a hub for lavish parties and meetings of high society under John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer. One such party in 1755 for the Earl’s 21st birthday saw France’s top chefs brought in to cater for his guests, with 11,000 pints of beer drank and his secret marriage to Margaret Georgiana Poyntz undertaken!

His daughter Georgiana Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire would similarly become known for her lavish lifestyle and socialite status, yet lived an infamously loveless marriage to the Duke of Devonshire. Her life has often been compared to that of her ancestor Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales who too grew up at Althorp.

Diana amassed worldwide renown after marrying Prince Charles in 1981, and over the years touched many lives with her charity work and activism. When in 1997 the Princess tragically died in a car accident, her body was laid to rest at Althorp on an island in the centre of Round Oval lake.

Althorp House and Estate today

Today visitors to Althorp can wander through the grand house and explore the Spencer family’s private apartments, as well as view the fascinating interiors and art collections on display.

The Picture Gallery in particular offers a stunning collection of 17th century portraiture, while the Library is home to towers of books once the finest private collection in the world, before many were sold to build up the John Rylands Library at University of Manchester.

Outside the sizeable gardens, stables, and parkland also offer a peaceful walk amongst a mix of terrains and habitats – you might even spot a rare black fallow deer!

Getting to Althorp House and Estate

Althorp House is located in Northamptonshire following minor roads off the A4500, with the entrance to the free visitor carpark at the West Gate. Northampton train station is 5 miles away, from which a taxi or Stagecoach number 96 can take you to the house, whose nearest bus stop is Althorp, East Lodge. There you are required to use the interactive gate panel, after which the estate minibus will take you directly to the house.

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